ThinkPrint is a word I made up to describe what I do: help people understand what kind of mind they have. Your ThinkPrint, like your fingerprint, is unique to you, the result of how your brain is wired up. Understanding your mind – your strengths, preferences, tendencies and vulnerabilities – enables you to use it more effectively. It’s like having the manual to your particular brain.
Neuropsychology is the field of science focused on “brain-behavior relationships,” understanding how the brain controls each element of what we do and experience – our feelings, perceptions, thoughts. As a clinical neuropsychologist, I am trained to identify and address problems with these higher level brain processes. But while I start by clarifying the nature and extent of the difficulties you may be having, overcoming the difficulties depends on identifying your strengths.
We tend to focus on our weaknesses – what we cannot do well, and on other people’s weaknesses, because they frustrate us. But it is far more valuable to discover, and direct your energy toward, what you can do, what comes naturally to you, both in terms of interest and ability. Yes, we need to be aware of our limitations and vulnerabilities, so we can watch out for them and work around them. But they are not the point. They are secondary. As with throwing a ball, what we aim for, what we focus on, is what we hit.
Is the glass half-empty or half-full? It is a valuable question. We can focus on what is wrong or missing, in our lives or ourselves, or or on what is right, what is available us to enjoy. This difference in perspective may make all the difference in our chances for health and happiness. But we live in a culture that emphasizes the negative.When we encounter something and immediately judge or criticize it, we can no longer see it clearly. This includes people and their traits or behavior, and for ourselves. We see something that we don’t like, and we reject or avoid it, along with the package it comes in. This makes it very difficult to understand it, and to change it.
As we try to understand ourselves or our children, it may be more helpful to imagine our ThinkPrint, than to focus on a “diagnosis.” We are born with a genetically pre-programmed set of neural circuitry, designed to process some types of information better than others, and to prefer some types of input and experiences more than others. This combination of ability and preference directs our attention and motivation, both of which underlie our ability to learn. While is is important to identify and address mood disturbance or emotional trauma, which must be treated and healed, it is just as important – perhaps more important, to determine who we are meant to be, what kinds of brains we have, what they were designed to do. We need to go back to our childhood, to remember what we were like before the world and the people around us imprinted themselves on us, sometimes hindering or obscuring our true nature.
Training ourselves to focus on the positive, to see the glass as half full, involves becoming mindful. Most of us are in the habit of living in our mind rather than in the world – in our thoughts and worries and memories, in the past or the future, rather than in the present. As a result, we can’t remember what happened – we weren’t paying attention. This is not an attention deficit, it’s a habit of mind.